06MOSCOW10227, BREAKFAST WITH ROGOZIN: TALES OF A KREMLIN PROJECT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW10227 2006-09-13 15:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0019
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #0227/01 2561506
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 131506Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2249
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 010227 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/07/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PINR RS
SUBJECT: BREAKFAST WITH ROGOZIN: TALES OF A KREMLIN PROJECT 
 
 
Classified By: PolMinCouns Alice G. Wells: 1.5 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (SBU)  Summary:  As the political season commences, the 
rise and fall of former Rodina Party Chairman Dmitry Rogozin 
is a cautionary tale for other politicians seeking poster-boy 
status in Kremlin electoral projects and a timely reminder of 
the ability of the Presidential Administration to intervene 
in the political process.  One of Russia's most charismatic, 
clever, and potentially dangerous politicians, Rogozin is 
frustrated by his sojourn in the political wilderness -- 
which he attributed to his unsettling success in attracting 
voters, Orange revolution-era praise of Ukrainian President 
Yushchenko, and gullibility in taking on Moscow Mayor Luzhkov 
-- and is looking for a way back, through the nationalist 
trump card of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, and frozen 
conflicts.  End Summary 
 
----------- 
Putin's Pet 
----------- 
 
2.  (C)  In conjunction with the September 8 release of his 
book, "Enemy of the Nation," former Rodina party chairman 
Dmitry Rogozin hit the publicity circuit, deigning to 
breakfast with us as one stop on his presumed path to 
political redemption.  Six months following his forced 
removal from the party's leadership after a racist television 
advertisement culminated in Rodina's exclusion from seven out 
of eight regional ballots, Rogozin was hardly contrite as he 
fed us his version of his Kremlin-propelled career arc: 
 
-- a self-declared "Putin project," Rogozin came to the 
President's attention in 2002 while working on the transit 
rights of Russian citizens in Kaliningrad, in his capacity as 
Chairman of the Duma's International Relations Committee. 
Putin, who liked Rogozin's rhetorical punch and political 
effectiveness, offered him leadership of United Russia, but 
settled on Rogozin's spearheading of Rodina in 2003, as a 
leftist political combination that would bleed support from 
the Communists and Zhirinovsky. 
 
-- to the alarm of the Kremlin, Rogozin's blend of Russian 
chauvinism and great power nationalism proved "shockingly" 
effective and Rodina had the misfortune of garnering "too 
many votes," attracting 150,000 members in six months (sic), 
and shooting up to second place in the opinion polls and 
party fundraising -- second only to Putin and United Russia, 
despite a lack of access to administrative resources. 
Wistfully recalling his popularity, Rogozin savored one 
particular live television debate conducted in prime-time 
("they learned; they don't do that anymore"), in which he 
purportedly cleaned the clocks of his United Russia 
counterpart. 
 
-- misreading the political tea leaves and disturbed by his 
visit to Beslan in the aftermath of the terrorist 2004 
takeover of the school, Rogozin called then-Ukrainian 
presidential candidate Yushchenko and praised "on human 
terms" his public condolence over the loss of life.  This, 
followed by his November 2004 visit to Kiev, donning of an 
orange scarf, public embrace with Yushchenko, and 
increasingly strident criticism of Putin's failed policy 
toward the orange revolution, Rogozin claims, was the last 
nail in his political coffin. 
 
-- forgetting that he was on a leash, Rogozin began to stray 
too far and ultimately crossed Kremlin redlines, to the anger 
of Putin.  Believing that he was an opposition politician, he 
began to take, and even savor, opportunistic pot-shots at the 
President and to adopt crowd-pleasing tactics such as his 
February 2005 ten-day hunger strike to protest the cutting of 
social subsidies.  This, Carnegie analyst Dmitry Trenin told 
us, was Rogozin's real sin: he stopped playing at being an 
opposition politician and started acting like one. 
 
--------------- 
Fall from Grace 
--------------- 
 
3.  (C)  Rogozin's account of his fall from political grace, 
as self-serving, was by his account equally Kremlin-driven: 
 
-- Kremlin anger over Rogozin's agenda and tactics translated 
into orders to intimidate and injure Rodina's supporters. 
Swearing that one misanthrope was released from jail for 
24-hours solely for the purpose of attacking the party's 
Volgograd leader with an axe, in exchange for a reduced 
sentence, Rogozin said the authorities' message was 
unambiguous, particularly when followed by other assaults on 
family members of the party leadership and threats to 
Rogozin's wife and son. 
-- Governors and other regional powerbrokers had "friendly" 
conversations with Rodina politicians, spelling out the 
consequences of Rogozin's continued chairmanship of the 
party.  The specter of other strong-arm tactics -- including 
stripping Rodina of its name and disqualifying its 
registration -- were raised. 
 
--  Defacto barred from television, Rogozin maintained that 
it was the government-influenced mass media that worked 
overtime to create the image of Rogozin as a pro-Hitler, 
anti-US, "monster" inciting skinhead attacks.  The infamous 
advertisement run during the Moscow city elections implicitly 
disparaging people "of Caucasian nationality" and promoting 
"Russia for Russians" was, he first insisted, really about 
sanitary conditions in the capital.  When criticized by us 
for inciting ethnic te
nsions, Rogozin took a different tack 
and said he had been encouraged by the Kremlin to take on 
Moscow Mayor Luzhkov where he was vulnerable -- illegal 
immigration.  Luzhkov won.  While Rogozin railed against the 
Mayor's corrupt practices, he grudgingly admired his chutzpah 
in having Liberal Democratic Party leader (and outspoken 
xenophobe) Zhirinovsky lead the charge against Rodina in the 
courts that ultimately led to the party's disqualification in 
seven of eight regional elections. 
 
----------------------- 
Courting Public Opinion 
----------------------- 
 
4.  (SBU)  Rogozin told us of his continued desire to be a 
player, but, he insisted, not in a toothless parliamentary 
body.  The answer, he maintained, was to kick-start a social 
movement based on Great Slav unity, which in separate press 
interviews he articulated as promoting the union of Russia 
and Belarus, the right of dual citizenship in Ukraine, the 
protection of ethnic Russian minorities in the Baltics, and 
the cause of the frozen conflicts.  Mikhail Demurin, head of 
Rodina's International Department, elaborated to us the 
party's dissatisfaction over the "corporate" foreign policy 
espoused by the Kremlin.  Rather than split the wealth among 
insiders, he said, Rodina believed that Russia should be 
prepared to pay a price -- in subsidized oil and gas, and 
other preferential trade and security regimes -- to maintain 
influence over former republics. While Rogozin sits outside 
the party structure for "tactical considerations," he 
affirmed to us that the would continue to throw his weight 
behind Rodina and its nationalist agenda. 
 
5.  (C)  More neutral observers testify to Rodina's -- and 
specifically Rogozin's -- electoral drawing power.  Golos 
Director Lilia Shebanova told us that despite Rogozin's 
sidelining, the party has by Russian standards a deep bench 
of energetic regional representatives.  Rogozin's blend of 
nationalism and chauvinism, while alienating a strata of the 
elite, generated a stable bedrock of support.  Shebanova and 
political representatives across the spectrum predicted 
Rodina's reelection to the Duma, with or without a merger. 
Demurin noted that Rodina's 11 percent placement in the one 
republic that it was permitted to contest elections was 
achieved despite ethnic Russians constituting less than half 
the population.  Carnegie's Trenin predicted that Rogozin's 
social movement would not amount to much, but did leave the 
deposed party leader well-positioned to leave political limbo 
when the next opportunity presented itself. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
6.  (C)  Rogozin is clinical when discussing tactics for 
resurrecting his public profile and political standing, and 
lacks any of the fervor typically associated with the 
nationalist wing in Russia.  He shrugged off our concern over 
his track record and agenda: this was politics, not personal. 
 His ability to find a local publisher, albeit one that 
specializes in xenophobic and anti-Semitic literature (a 
sampling: "Masons in Power in Russia," "For Motherland! For 
Stalin!", "Judaic Yoke") indicates that he is not beyond the 
Kremlin's political pale.  By rededicating himself to 
"patriotic" causes, Rogozin clearly hopes to become a player 
in the 2007-2008 election campaigns and (as his purported 
effort to curry favor with the Kremlin by challenging Luzhkov 
demonstrates) is not picky about which camp he occupies, as 
long as it provides a visible political berth. 
BURNS

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